Home / Politics / Policy /  SC lifts bar on women at Sabarimala

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday granted women of all ages the right to enter the Sabarimala temple, reversing the Kerala shrine’s tradition of barring girls and women of menstruating age—10-50 years.

The verdict was passed by 4:1 majority by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and judges D.Y. Chanrachud, A.M. Khanwilkar, R.F. Nariman and Indu Malhotra, the sole woman on the bench and the author of a dissenting opinion.

Recognizing that banning women from entering the temple was derogatory to them, Khanwilkar on behalf of himself and Misra said: “Morality cannot be viewed with a narrow lens so as to confine the sphere of definition of morality to what an individual, a section or religious sect may perceive the term to mean.

“Patriarchy in religion cannot be permitted to trump over the element of pure devotion born out of faith and the freedom to practise and profess one’s religion."

Chandrachud, in his separate but concurring judgment, said religion could not become a cover to exclude and deny the basic right to find fulfilment in worship to women. He added that physiological factors associated with women could not provide a rationale to deny them the right to worship.

Malhotra, in her sole dissenting opinion, held that it was not for the courts to determine if these practices should be struck down. “What constitutes an essential religious practices is for the religious community/denomination to decide," she said.

She added that constitutional morality required “harmonisation of rights of all persons", religious denominations or sects, to ensure that the religious beliefs of none were undermined.

The court was ruling on a public interest litigation filed in 2006 by non-profit body Indian Young Lawyers’ Association, seeking entry for women and girls to the Sabarimala shrine.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, justified the restriction saying the ban had a “historical origin" as the entry of women and girls of menstruating age was antithetical to the “Naishtika Brahmachari" (celibate) nature of the deity.

Women all across the country are restrained from entering any temple during menstruation, lawyer Abhishek Manu Sighvi, appearing for the board submitted, adding that the ban on entry was also justified because it was physiologically impossible for women to observe a 41-day penance for the deity.

Kerala’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was in support of allowing the entry of women.

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